Published: 1997
Theme: Reality Check and Humor
Best for: Boys 9 to 11
“Now running away from home in the fourteenth century was by no means an easy thing to do. Everyone in the village would know exactly who you were… Nobody would be sitting inside watching television.” A funny book with a serious message- maybe knights are not all they appear to be on the surface, and war is war, never nice.

Published: 2018
Theme: Bravery
Best for: 10 and up

“I’m terrified to see my mother being taken away. I want to pull her out of there, and hold her hand as we run back to our apartment. I don’t do any of that. I’m sacred and angry and sad.” From beginning to end, this adventure in New York City brings us to see the immense courage of immigrant families under threat.

Published: 2015
Theme: Fantasy, Inner Strengths
Best for: 9 to 11

“Many times we carry our magic within us, an inner magic that takes many forms, such as love, friendship, courage, and tolerance.” . In this lovely children’s book, fantasy has been crafted to suit younger children, without the violence and scare factors.

Published: 2000
Theme: Women Heroines
Best for: 5 to 10

“In the dark time of the year, when the days are short and a cold wind blows from the north, a serpent came to live in an old cave on the mountain of Yung Ling…” From time to time, it’s great to read about a young girl who takes on the challenge of slaying the perennial serpent. This children’s book is a lovely collection of such stories.

Published: 2017
Theme: Multicultural Stories
Best for: 9 – 12

“You plead with the guys standing on the sidelines. “You gotta let me play, man. I can ball. I swear.” But these outbursts of self-promotion will fall on deaf ears.” This collection of short stories is part of the mission for Diversity.org, where every child can see themselves in the pages of a book. A great mission…

Published: 2012
Theme: Genuine Kindness
Best for: Third Grade

“I couldn’t believe myself. All of a sudden it was like there was no door between my brain and my mouth. As for Gerald Willis, he was a fifth-grader, a troublemaker, and a bully.” In this well-written children’s book, we find out that being kind is a 24/7 occupation, not reserved for winning points.

Published: 2009
Theme: Humor
Best for: 8 to 10

“I think,” Clyde said to his friends, “that bird is special. He has powers. Maybe…he’s psychic.” By the end of the day the word was all over school. Need some humor to lighten the day? Here’s a quick and lighthearted read…

Published: 1999
Theme: Finding oneself
Best for: boys 11 and up

“It was so beautiful it took his breath and he stood, his arms full of wood, staring at the sky until the sun, the star, and the light were gone, wanting it all to mean more.” A worthy sequel to the best-seller Hatchet, we find out how challenging it is to adapt to civilization that has lost its soul.

Published: 2017
Theme: Being oneself
Best for: 5th grade and up

“Some people had comfort food, but Alec has comfort books–stories so familiar that they made reading feel like coasting downhill on a bike, or water-skiing on a smooth lake…” This is a fabulous children’s book about fitting in, without losing ones own sense of self, and a little bit about coming of age…

Published: 2017
Theme: Holding Loss
Best for: 9 and up

” I closed my eyes, feeling a point of infinite love and infinite grief, and comfort in knowing, for the first time, that I have infinite space inside for both.” This well-written and creative book takes on the grieving process with skill and courage, and shows the beauty of a life can include both joy and sorrow.

Published: 2016
Theme: Defending the Truth
Best for: 12 and up

“The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered. So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden. But I took it anyway…” A worthy piece of literature for young readers, somewhat a milder version of Kill a Mockingbird, but with less brutality and perhaps more heart.

Published: 2017
Theme: Speaking up
Best for: 8 and up

“All through math I sucked on my braids and imagined all the awful things that would happen if I was caught with all those books in my locker. Every parent…would like up to sue me.” This is a not-to-be-missed book about helping children understand how to speak up against injustices, small and large.

Published: 2017
Theme: Content with Life
Best for: 7 to 9

“I remembered a large, fancy poster with a picture of my mother and James, looking happy and famous. How could she leave that behind to live on a farm in the middle of the prairie?” The magic of Patricia MacLachlan comes through again, this time with a young girl wondering how one can give up fame and still be happy!

Published: 1999
Theme: The Natural World
Best for: 9 and up

“Frightful awoke as the morning sun brought color to the ops of the trees. Still ravenously hunger, and growing weak from lack of food, she left the pine and circled above an alfalfa field.” This children’s book is written so deftly that we feel like we are hearing about the habits of a dear friend, rather than some dry science about falcons…

Published: 2017
Theme: India’s Independence fight
Best for: 12 and up

“Ma handed Anjali one of the two prasad trays as they headed into the hall. Anjali gave a ladoo to her father and bowed to him in pranaam. He raised his hand over her head to bless her…” We journey to a village in India during the struggle for independence, and live with freedom fighters, including a young girl and her mother…

Published: 2017
Theme: Values, Humor, Science
Best for: 9 and up

“Now that I have proved that Earth does exist,” said Sputnik, “I have to prove that it should exist. Every planet has to have a reason…Useless planets are being shrunk all over the sky…” This book has a wonderful mix of good science, deep thought (Why are we here?) and sensitivity to the difficulty of aging…

Published: 2016
Theme: Science and Heart
Best for: 9 and up

“You’d think that going to your mum’s funeral on Tuesday would get you the rest of the week off, but not according to my dad. “We need to get back to normal,” he says when I try to protest.” This children’s book is a terrific merging of heart and mind, sincere feelings and contemporary science…

Published: 2012
Theme: Kindness and Friendship
Best for: 7 to 9

“The little girl peered out of the carriage and saw two bears lumbering quickly ahead, pulling the carriage through patches of twisting trees and over hills dotted with early blooms.” This book weaves the magical and unreality together in a way that you begin to feel you are reading an old-fashioned fairy tale, which in some ways it is.

Published: 2017
Theme: Resisting Prejudice
Best for: 10 and up

“I’d been taught that our Bamarre were lucky to be ruled by us. Otherwise they would have been conquered by others, who would have killed them all. With us, they were safe and had duties and food.” A great and timely fantasy children’s book exploring the injustice of nations dominating nations, and the ill consequences of prejudice…

Published: 2003
Theme: Survival
Best for: 9 and up

“Until now, except for occasional gut-wrenching pangs of homesickness and loneliness, I had by and large managed to keep my spirits up. But not anymore. My beacon stayed obstinately damp.” I was immediately struck with the clarity, simplicity, and beauty of the writing, and wondered how the tale would unfold…

Published: 2009
Theme: Norse Myth
Best for: 9 to 10

“He clambered onto the bear’s back, holding his crutch with his left hand and clutching the bear’s fur with his right. The bear stood up slowly, making sure the boy was on, then set off at a fast lope…” It’s wonderful to see contemporary authors make good use of imagination and the wealth of possibilities from the Norse stories…

Published: 2017
Theme: WWII Resistance and Courage
Best for: 9 to 12

“A few days later, I was one my way to meet Katrin for school when the German office cornered me at the end of the path. “Where’s the dog, Fraulein?” Meme and I should have decided to what to say to him…” It seems important for children to know that resistance is not just for history, or adults, but is something that even young people can participate in.

Published: 2016
Theme: Religious Tolerance
Best for: 12 and up

“Louis of France is not yet thirty, and already he is the greatest king in Europe. His armies have never been defeated. This war is different… He is fighting three children. And their dog.” I don’t know how he pulled it off, but along with the historical description, Gidwitz adds contemporary outrage, and humor as well, giving perspective on the bizarre behavior of the human race!